Top 10 Biggest Differences Between Stephen King Books and Movies

Written by Nathan Sharp When books are adapted into hollywood movies, not everything makes the cut onto the silver screen, but some of the things left out of these adaptions of Stephen King books really had fans upset. WatchMojo presents the top 10 Biggest Differences Between Stephen King Books and Movies! But what will take the top spot on our list? Watch on WatchMojo: WatchMojo.com Big thanks to MattW128 for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Biggest+Differences+Between+Stephen+King+Books+and+Movies
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Hollywood just LOVES changing King’s stories, don’t they? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten biggest differences between Stephen King books and movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most drastic and shocking differences from page to screen between Stephen King’s writing and its adaptations, whether it be scene alterations, changes in character or character development, or entire plot elements altogether. We’ll be dealing with crucial plot and climax points, so a spoiler warning is now in effect.

#10: Tad Dies in the Novel
“Cujo”


“Cujo” is arguably one of King’s scariest and most depressing novels, with an ending that kicks you straight in the gut. At the climax of the novel, Donna realizes that her son, Tad, is severely dehydrated and nearing death. After killing Cujo, Donna’s husband arrives to save the day, only to discover that Tad has died in the car. This is altered in the movie. Donna gives Tad mouth-to-mouth, as she does in the novel, but rather than remain dead, Tad gasps back to consciousness for the happy ending. Yeah, happy endings are nice and all, but come on, this is Stephen King we’re talking about here.

#9: The Subplot of the Estranged Wife & Daughter Are Made Up for the Movie
“1408”


“1408” is a terrifying short story, first released in the 1999 audiobook collection “Blood and Smoke” and later in print in “Everything’s Eventual.” Due to its short length, it’s only natural that some padding needed to be done for the movie. Enter an estranged wife and deceased daughter for MAXIMUM EMOTIONAL IMPACT. In the film, Mike debunks the supernatural after the death of his daughter and gets the happy ending with his wife (well, in the theatrical version at least). In the novel, he’s just a regular dude who writes about supposedly haunted places because it makes him money. No dead daughter, no wife. Just a really freaky hotel room.

#8: Monster Rarely Appears as a Clown
“It”


When most people think of the 1990 miniseries, “It,” Tim Curry’s terrifying (and, let’s face it, kind of hammy) portrayal of Pennywise the Clown is usually the first thing to come to mind. However, in the novel the iconic dancing clown form rarely appears. Within the 1,138 pages of this horror classic, It takes on several horrifying aspects (a mummy, a leper, and a swarm of flying leeches to name a few), and compels the townsfolk of Derry to either ignore or engage in brutal acts. A monster which may appear at any time, in the book It is less of a trickster and more the physical embodiment of fear and evil.

#7: Mostly Everything
“The Lawnmower Man”


Sometimes adaptations are just so off the mark that you wonder why they even bothered adapting it in the first place. In King’s short story of the same name, protagonist Harold Parkette hires a lawnmowing service for some yard work. What follows is a strange pseudo-pagan ritual wherein the hired serviceman strips naked and follows his semi-sentient lawnmower on all fours, devouring the clipped grass. The movie is about a scientist improving the mental capabilities of a simple lawnmower man through virtual reality. Yeah. Aside from a few very minor references, the plots are nothing alike, and King successfully sued New Line for using his name on the title.

#6: Ben Richards Is Less of a Hero
“The Running Man”


Both movie and book follow a dystopian storyline about a totalitarian state which runs a TV show called The Running Man, in which hitmen hunt and kill contestants. While the set-up of the games is also different, it’s the depiction of the protagonist, Ben Richards, that made the cut here. In the film, Richards is an ex-police helicopter pilot who is arrested and coerced into playing The Running Man after breaking out of prison. In the novel, Ben is an unemployed, scrawny everyman with a dying child who must enter the murderous game to help earn enough money for medicine and to provide for his family. Yeah, that’s just depressing.


#5: Carrie Doesn’t Cause Destruction from the Stage
“Carrie”


When people think of “Carrie,” usually one scene springs to mind: Sissy Spacek on stage, covered in blood, exacting telekinetic revenge. This scene is so iconic that even the remake used it, despite it not actually happening that way in the novel. In King’s version, Carrie runs out of the building, humiliated, only to remember her powers, and wreak havoc on fellow prom-goers while watching through the windows. Also, in the 1976 film version, Carrie goes straight home rather than rampaging and causing destruction throughout the entire town as she does in the novel. Still a freaky movie, though.

#4: The Hobbling Scene Is Much More Gruesome
“Misery”


Easily one of the most memorable scenes in the King-based filmography is the hobbling scene from “Misery.” After it’s discovered that he once left his room, Annie, played to perfection by Kathy Bates, breaks Paul’s ankles by smashing them against a board with a sledgehammer. While this is disgusting and all (seriously, we dare you to watch the entire scene without flinching), it’s actually much more gruesome in the novel. In this version, after discovering that Paul escaped, she chops off his foot with an axe and proceeds to cauterize the wound with a blowtorch. That’s one way to express your love, we guess.


#3: The Child Orgy
“It”


Yeah, we don’t really know what King was thinking with this one. After the Losers Club destroys It in the sewers, they find themselves lost. Beverly then has the bright idea of having sex with the boys in order to further strengthen their connection. Yes, King actually wrote a scene that sees a group of underage children having sex with each other and experiencing orgasms. Needless to say, this was scrapped from the miniseries. While the scene can be interpreted several ways (“It” manifested for Beverly as fear of her own burgeoning sexuality; banishing fear by literally “making love;” IT only attacks children and after sex they’re entering adulthood; etc.) it doesn’t make reading the scene any less uncomfortable.


#2: The Ending Is Completely Different
“The Mist”


If you’ve seen it, chances are two things really stood out for you in the 2007 adaptation of “The Mist”: the gigantic, Lovecraftian monster, and the harrowing ending that sees David mercy killing his fellow survivors (including his son), only to realize that rescue was literally seconds away. This ending was, and still is, praised for its bravery and subversion of expectations. And it was all original. In the novella, David and the group simply drive off into the mist in the hope of reaching salvation, but with no guarantees. King ended up praising the new ending, and we can definitely see why. We still haven’t recovered from it.



Before we look at the biggest difference, here are a few honorable mentions.

Barlow Is Much More Human
“Salem’s Lot”



Roland Is Caucasian in the Novels
“The Dark Tower” (2017)



Gage Speaks Like an Adult & Taunts His Victims
“Pet Sematary” (1989)



#1: The Ending Is Completely Different
“The Shining”


It’s a well-documented fact that Stephen King was not a fan of Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining.” The movie takes some extreme liberties with the source material, with many of its most iconic scenes, including the ending, not appearing in the novel. The movie ends with a deranged Jack chasing Danny through a hedge maze before freezing to death. In the novel, Jack chases Danny through the hotel before briefly regaining control of his mind and telling his son that he loves him. He then obliterates his own face with a mallet before perishing with the hotel when it explodes as a result of an unstable boiler. The novel provides the more touching ending, but for many, the movie’s finale is far scarier.
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